Using the Functional Movement Screen in Team Settings

Jun 22, 2022

The following article has been in the works for over a year. It comes out the file we jokingly refer to as Articles to be Finished. Gray has been kind enough to read it and provide some feedback which has been incorporated. In addition the article will be included in my new book Advances in Functional Training due out in November.

For those that are unfamiliar, the Functional Movement Screen is a simple system for screening both athletes and non-athletes for potential injury. The screen was developed by Gray Cook and Lee Burton. To learn more about the screen itself you can visit . If you are not familiar with the FMS, log onto the site and read about it prior to continuing this article.

If you are familiar, the purpose of this article is to look at using the Functional Movement Screen in a team setting. The most common question I get in regard to the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is "do you use the FMS with your teams?" The answer is yes but not probably the way you might think. The next question is most often "How?" The purpose of this article is to answer how and hopefully, why. To understand why we use the Functional Movement Screen we need to begin with why I like Gray Cook. In the simplest of views I like Gray Cook because he helps me to achieve my goals. I want to get my athletes better. Gray's ideas help me do that. I have no financial interest in the Functional Movement Screen or any of Gray's business ventures. In spite of that I may be one of his biggest supporters and best salesmen. What this process really is about are results and "best practices". How can I get the best results for my athletes? If my athletes achieve, if my teams wins, than everything is right with my training world.

My staff and I have used the FMS with enough athletes to see trends across a wide variety of sports. In hockey the hip flexion pattern tested in the Hurdle Step tended to be our most significant problem. As a result we designed a lot of our warm-up and pre-hab work to go after the hip flexion pattern. Gray's advice for an individual is simple. Attack the worst pattern. In teams settings we do the same thing.

Another weak pattern for my hockey players was Rotary Stability. This meant we needed to upgrade our core work. The process is simple. Screen your team, look at the results, work on the problem patterns. In addition, we will perform the FMS on any injured athlete who comes to our facility and on all our personal training clients.

Who's Program Is It?

One area that many strength and conditioning coaches get concerned with is that they will lose control of their program. Remember, that will never happen unless you let it. It's your program. I don't run Gray Cook's program and you don't have to either. I don't agree with Gray on everything. In fact, we use very few of Gray's corrective strategies as we have not found them "group friendly". However, that does not mean that I can't use the screen or the information obtained from the screen to help me improve my program. The truth is, as I understand more, I integrate more. The real question is do Gray Cook and the Functional Movement Screen have the ability to make us better at our jobs and help us to improve our athletes? For me I absolutely know they do. The things I have learned from Gray have been invaluable in my evolution as a coach.

NFL strength and conditioning coaches like Jon Torine and Jeff Fish have developed group corrective strategies that they like. I have also but, have generally used my favorite corrective exercises as a general team warm-up. I think there is no harm in an athlete doing additional corrective exercises even if they do not apply to him.

One solution that Gray has advocated is the use of Turkish Getup or, parts of the Turkish Getup as a groups corrective strategy. If you analyze the Getup you see scapular stability, core stability, hip mobility,as well as single leg patterns. Gray realized that athletic teams, the military, and other groups who wanted to use the FMS would feel limited by some of our corrective suggestions. His solution was the Kettlebells from the Ground Up project called The Kalos Shenos (Greek words that make up our word callisthenic). The project consists of two DVDs and a manual that reviews the movements behind the Kettlebell Get Up or the Turkish Getup. One get up involves 14 movements from top to bottom. It has a high neural demand and challenges both mobility and stability. In the manual each step has corrective suggestions. The Getup has a left-right component, which lends itself to the exposure of asymmetry which is a fundamental component of the FMS. In addition each part of the get up uses one or two patterns in the FMS. The strength coach familiar with the FMS will see many options for warm-up and corrective exercises with in this program. Three to five get ups per side can be an excellent warm-up/ corrective combination. If a complete get-up is not possible for an athlete, have the athlete do three circuits of the corrective exercise suggested at the problem part of the get-up. Cook states " If you did nothing the FMS suggested and only let the get-up catch the problem and worked on the difficult part of the get-up you would witness a huge improvement in the FMS".

A Screening Tool or A Sales Tool?

I often ask myself if the Functional Movement Screen is a screening tool or a sales tool. I think we need to stop thinking of the FMS as an assessment and start thinking of it as the best tool you can have to sell your athletes on your program.

The FMS may not change what you do but it will change how your players perceive what you do. In fact I have found that the FMS results generally reinforce good program design concepts. Why does the FMS reinforce program design concepts? Because we have found that a well-designed program yields good FMS scores.

At Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning we were one of the first groups to use the Functional Movement Screen. Gray came to Boston and taught the screen to us in 2002. We noticed one very significant thing. Our coaches all scored very high. Not surprisingly, our coaches at the time were all former MBSC athletes who had spent years on our program. What this meant to us was what we did worked. A program of functional exercises with lots of single leg work and lots of core work produced excellent Functional Movement Screen scores. We then began to screen groups of "normal' athletes, athletes who did lots of conventional bi-lateral training and lots of machine training. The results were the opposite. Dysfunction was everywhere. The net result? The scores of our coaches reinforced to them that the program they believed in produced superior results when tested independently. In addition, the scores and obvious inabilities demonstrated by our customers reinforced what was lacking in their training.

How many of you have attempted the FMS Rotary Core Stability test? Tell me how easy is it to sell core training to an athlete after they bomb that test. I once had a professional athlete tell me the test was impossible. I had to do it successfully three times in front of him to get him to believe it could be done. This guy could not even balance in the two-point position, much less move, yet he was playing in the NFL as a receiver.

Part 2 coming next week